Exposure to particulate matter (PM) is associated with increased cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality. Diesel exhaust particles (DEP) are a major component of ambient PM and may contribute to PM-induced pulmonary inflammation. Proinflammatory signaling is mediated by phosphorylation-dependent signaling pathways whose activation is opposed by the activity of protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPases) which thereby function to maintain signaling quiescence. PTPases contain an invariant catalytic cysteine that is susceptible to electrophilic attack. DEP contain electrophilic oxy-organic compounds that may contribute to the oxidant effects of PM. Therefore, we hypothesized that exposure to DEP impairs PTPase activity allowing for unopposed basal kinase activity. Here we report that exposure to 30 μg/cm2 DEP for 4 h induces differential activation of signaling in primary cultures of human airway epithelial cells (HAEC), a primary target cell in PM inhalation. In-gel kinase activity assay of HAEC exposed to DEPs of low (L-DEP), intermediate (I-DEP) or high (H-DEP) organic content showed differential activation of intracellular kinases. Exposure to these DEP also induced varying levels of phosphorylation of the receptor tyrosine kinase EGFR in a manner that requires EGFR kinase activity but does not involve receptor dimerization. We demonstrate that treatment with DEP results in an impairment of total and EGFR-directed PTPase activity in HAEC with a potency that is independent of the organic content of these particles. These data show that DEP-induced EGFR phosphorylation in HAEC is the result of a loss of PTPase activities which normally function to dephosphorylate EGFR in opposition to baseline EGFR kinase activity.